Herbal Recipes

How to make an Herbal Liniment for Pain

A liniment is an herbal remedy that is used topically to help alleviate pain in sore muscles and soft tissues.  It’s usually made with either rubbing alcohol or witch hazel so the herbs can be easily and quickly absorbed into the skin.   Oils can also be used, but they don’t have the immediate effect of an alcohol-based liniment, and I prefer to reserve oils for massage oils or creams.

There are several herbs that can be included in a pain-relieving liniment, but I like to include pain relieving herbs, anti-inflammatories, and herbs that help speed healing.

Menthol is naturally cooling and soothing and is often used in salves, balms, mouthwashes, liniments, lozenges, and other remedies

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is my favorite herb for topical pain.  It is useful in both nerve pain and muscle pain and moves quickly to soothe overused, tired muscles or injured soft tissue.  St. Johns’ Wort is best used fresh in medicine making, so in my liniment, I include pre-made St. John’s Wort Tincture (unless I remember to make the liniment during the brief window of time that St. John’s Wort is ready for harvest).

Meadowsweet (Filipedula ulmaria) is used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  It reduces inflammation, clears heat, and promotes the healing of tissue.  It contains salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.

Willow bark (Salix alba) is a pain relieving herb with anti-inflammatory properties.  Rich in salicin, it alleviates pain and reduces fever and inflammation.  It was one of the original ingredients in aspirin and can be used topically to relieve pains of arthritis or other musculoskeletal issues.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used historically to reduce pain and inflammation, heal wounds, and protect damaged tissues.  It helps to alleviate pain, especially in the bones.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) reduces pain and is used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, both externally and internally.  Yarrow helps to move chi and improve circulation by relaxing the peripheral blood vessels.  Topically, it helps to repair tissue, and stop bleeding.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of natures greatest gifts as it helps to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds.

Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used traditionally as a remedy for bruising, soft tissue injury, and to increase blood flow to the area of injury.  Not to be taken internally, or on broken skin.

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens), when used in diluted form it helps to relieve pain by blocking the transmission of pain messages to the brain.  It is historically used in creams, lotions, and liniments for arthritis, joint pain, and sore, achy muscles.

The Recipe:

1 cup Witch Hazel or Rubbing Alcohol

1 tsp menthol crystals

2 Tbsp dried meadowsweet

2 Tbsp dried willow bark

2 Tbsp dried yarrow

2 Tbsp dried comfrey

2 Tbsp dried calendula

2 Tbsp dried arnica flower

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 oz St. John’s Wort Tincture

25 drops peppermint essential oil


  • Coarsely grind all dried herbs with your mortar and pestle.
  • Put all the ground herbs in a pint-sized mason jar.
  • Pour witch hazel or alcohol over the top
  • Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.
  • Strain and compost herbs
  • Add St. John’s Wort tincture and essential oil
  • Bottle and label.

This liniment will be shelf stable and should last for a couple of years. I recommend bottling it in little spray bottles so that it’s easy to apply as needed.  Be sure it’s only used on unbroken skin, as this formula is not suitable for open wounds, and the label indicates that it’s for external use only.